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70 individuals housed thanks to London’s first-ever Housing Stability Week

Housing Stability Week event at Silverwood Arena at 50 Sycamore Street in London. Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

The City of London’s manager of homeless prevention is calling Housing Stability Week a success, but admits much more needs to be done.

In total, 70 people were housed — including several families who were staying at Mission Services of London’s Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter — but hundreds more are still in need.

“We had well over 550 people through the door [of Silverwood Arena] from the Monday to Friday,” Craig Cooper told 980 CFPL.
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“Many days we had to close down multiple services due to the volume of individuals. So our intake and assessment section, we could only do so many intakes and assessment each day and we definitely reached those numbers quite quickly.”

Cooper says over 350 assessments were completed, which allowed officials to learn about each person’s housing needs as well as what supports they may require in order to provide successful long-term housing.

Over the next few weeks, he added, the city will be following up with those who came out to the arena and provided contact information. Anyone in need of housing, at risk of losing housing, or looking for more information is encouraged to connect with the city’s homeless prevention department.

The initiative itself was inspired by the response to the Woodman Avenue home explosion in London’s Old East Village. The incident saw more than 100 homes in the immediate area evacuated, with the city organizing accommodations and supports for those in need.

“The creation of that reception centre and how those individuals that were displaced were supported with housing and various other things,” Cooper explained. “We took a lot of the principles from that reception centre and the emergency management response and sort of tweaked it to a housing-type response for individuals that are experiencing un-sheltered homelessness and like if they live in a shelter.”

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Cooper, who has been in the role for less than a year, also credits a shift in philosophy for increasing the sense of urgency and dedication to addressing the city’s housing crisis.

“It’s more of a do-whatever-it-takes philosophy than maybe what has been historically used at the city,” said Cooper.

“Our agencies are the ones that are out there on the ground every single day and they’re interacting with these individuals, trying to find housing for them, trying to understand why they’re homeless, what their challenges are — whether trauma-based, addictions-based [or] mental health challenges.

“We’re working with individuals and doing more of that whatever-it-takes type philosophy.”

When asked if the city would hold another Housing Stability Week in the future, Cooper said the goal is to create a centralized access point for the city.

“Depending on the timing of when we can get that operational, we will evaluate whether or not we do something similar, whether it’s for the same type of population or do we focus it in different areas depending on what we identify as the need in the city at the time,” Cooper said.

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In July 2018, city manager Martin Hayward said London’s homelessness situation was at a “tipping point.” The comment followed a request from the City of Toronto for immediate help housing more than 3,300 refugees and asylum claimants in its shelter system that London was unable to answer due to its own shelters being too full.

At the time, London’s “broader emergency shelter system” was operating at 100 per cent capacity while the Rotholme shelter was at 219 per cent capacity.

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